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9 Things Every Marketer Needs To Know About Search By Special Guest Author Danny Sullivan, Conference Chair, Search Marketing Expo West

By: Danny Sullivan
January 2008 Communication

Marketers can no longer ignore search marketing. Too many potential customers are seeking businesses through search. And if you’re not there, your competitors are. Market research firm eMarketer predicts that businesses will spend $21.4 billion on search marketing activities during 2007, and a whopping $27.5 billion in 2008.

Regardless of whether your search marketing budget is in the thousands or the millions, there are a few best practices you’ll want to follow to get the most out of your search marketing efforts.

  1. Search marketing is not an afterthought: Search marketing is not something you need to think about after planning out other types of marketing, such as print, radio or outdoor. Messages you put out through other advertising venues will generate searches, so you need to consider how people will be seeking you before starting a campaign. Marketers need to understand the importance of search and make the commitment to fully integrating it into an advertising campaign.
  2. Choose the right keywords: Know your message is a golden rule of advertising and public relations, but in search, the normal rules get flipped around. Your customers are sending you the message, in the ways they search for products online. Using the right tools, you can easily discover the keywords they use to seek the types of products and services you provide. Discover these terms, then ensure you’ve built your web site content to make use of them. Need help getting started? Check out the short guide from Search Engine Land http://searchengineland.com/lands/search-marketing-search-term-research.php
  3. Optimize your site: Heard of “search engine optimization?” It refers to ensuring that your web site is designed in a way to help search engines “read” it properly. Search engines don’t look at sites the same way that human beings do. Images mean nothing to them, which means sites need to have rich textual content. They also assign special importance to what your page titles say. Other issues can blind search engines to your content, such as the use of JavaScript, Flash or frames. The good news is that with relatively little effort, you can have a search engine friendly site that’s human friendly, as well.
  4. Get links: Search engines look at the way links point at a web site to help determine how relevant a site is to a particular keyword. Links from important web sites make your site seem more important. In addition, the “anchor text” – the actual words in the link itself – help influence your site to be seen as relevant for those words. So build links by finding sites that are somehow related to you or which have an audience that matches the one you are after and ask them for a link. However, avoid participating in automated link exchange programs that aren’t going to create the targeted linking that you need. And thinking of buying links? Be careful. If spotted, the links might not count to help your site or worse might cause you to be penalized, which will inevitably cause a drop in search traffic.
  5. Try paid search ads: Search engines will send web sites lots of “free” traffic if they are correctly designed. However, this traffic can fluctuate and isn’t guaranteed. That’s why it’s good to at least experiment with paid search ads. They ensure you have a steady flow of traffic if the free traffic slows down for some reason. You can also use them to quickly start campaigns around new products and services when you need to be showing up in search engines immediately for certain keywords, rather than the days-to-weeks delay it can take with gaining free visibility.
  6. Make sure your site is usable: All the great content, keywords and links in the world won’t matter if search engines deliver visitors to your site and they can’t figure out how to get around.  Having a clear navigation structure, solid landing pages and an on-site search are a few ways to make sure that potential customers can find what they need.
  7. Monitor and measure: Unlike many types of advertising, search is hugely measurable. You can tell discover the exact terms that someone used to reach your web site and what they did when they arrived. You can also track when they make a return visit, which helps understand if search is driving lifetime value. Make use of web analytics programs to monitor how your site is performing, so that you can tweak and improve where needed.
  8. Get a crash course: Industry conferences are a great way to get a concentrated overview of search marketing principles in a short amount of time.  The cost of the conference will likely be offset by the money you save by making smarter search engine marketing decisions that get results. Some conferences appeal only to those who interested in advanced techniques, while others provide a broader overview of the search marketing landscape.
  9. Then stay up to date: Forums, blogs and message boards are a great way to keep up with the latest changes in the world of search marketing.  What works this month may not work next month-these online communities are some of the best places to read about upcoming changes in search engine practices and to get advice on how to make those changes work for your site.


About the author

Called "The Godfather of Search", Danny Sullivan serves as conference chairperson for SMX West, a search marketing conference to be held in Santa Clara, CA from February 26-28, 2008. Sullivan also serves as Editor-in-Chief for SearchEngineLand.com. For more information on Danny or SMX West, please visit www.smxwest.com.

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